The Cree-Naskapi Act emerged as a result of the recommendations of the Penner Report on self-government, but it was also connected to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement made almost a decade earlier. As the first legislated attempt to establish self-government, the Act displaced the Indian Act in the lives of those Natives affected, the James Bay Cree and the Naskapi of northern Quebec. Under this legislation, the communities concerned became corporate entities, controlling the lands transferred under the 1975-1978 agreements from Quebec to Ottawa for the exclusive use of these peoples. Second in importance and legal status to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Native Claims Settlement Act, the Cree-Naskapi Act outranks all other legislation pertaining to the peoples under its jurisdiction.
As an exercise in self-government, the Cree-Naskapi Act has been somewhat marred by disputes between the Natives involved and the federal government with regard to an appropriate funding formula. The government claimed that it had almost completely honoured its obligations under the Act, while some of those directly concerned refuted this assertion. The problematic implementation of this Act called into question the commitment of the Conservative government at the time to the establishment of self-government. These conflicts have made the Act one of the less successful models of Native self-government, but, as the first of its kind, it may well have highlighted weaknesses to be avoided in subsequent efforts.